Fred scoffed three years ago when Bedrock commentators speculated that powerbrokers back home had “let” the nice black guy get elected, a fall guy to blame for a pipeline of problems and mountain of debt accumulated during the previous eight years. Bedrockians know how a country’s affairs are controlled. Why bother with the complicated democracy cover story?
Fred’s democracy back home is very messy with a lot of foreplay. In Bedrock, elections are much less costly and the finish is quick. Just last month Fred and Wilma watched Channel 1, as the former and future President was elected by a commanding 100% majority of the vote in Bedrock’s take on “one-man-one-vote” democracy. The final tally: the President one, the other guys zero.
The election was fair and open at a polling place set up at Luzhniki Park, under the watchful eyes of thousands of the country’s responsible leaders. No need for a dozen or so of these folks in $5,000 suits to chow down on kielbasa and vobla (dried fish) at a stolovaya (cafeteria) in Chuvasia to win votes. The parking lot must have looked like a German auto dealer’s storage yard.
Increasingly, Fred sees his country’s Presidential field dominated by Symbols, the best newsreaders, those with perfect hair, but not necessarily any grey matter underneath. It’s a cast that takes the stage every four years that always includes a Texas Governor, Baptist Preacher, Thrifty Businessman, and a Green Professor. This year they have been joined by a couple of Strident Housewives. Fred can see the Bedrock pundits’ point, looking as they do from a distance. How could anyone think these empty suits and dresses are anything but a front for the “real” power?
Bedrock has its own set of Symbolic contenders, each with his own following. The Communist, the Nationalist, and the Liberal have been around for the better part of two decades. The Jailed Oligarch is the darling of the western media, but his travel is restricted these days. The Young Oligarch emerged this year touted as a serious presidential candidate, even though he recently proposed that Bedrock adopt a 60-hour workweek, a platform sure to capture the vote of the people.
The difference in Bedrock is that the Symbols hold their jobs for decades, and don’t need fancy hair because they rarely make TV, at least prime time. The players back home still have to eat hot pork sandwiches with a Big Gulp at Casey’s convenience store in Sioux City every four years.
The Internet and Social Networking are Black Swans in this environment, as demonstrated this year in the MENA countries. On the one hand, the Internet limits the politician’s ability to please all of the people all of the time, and brings light into corridors long shut to the light of day. As the other leather gloved hand it provides a virtually free character assassination instrument, a contagious host to virally spread scurrilous and blatant falsifications.
Take the missive that landed in Fred’s inbox last spring that started, “Where was Barack Obama and his Hollywood friends when Iowa was flooded out?” together with photos of people on rooftops, river swirling below. He hadn’t heard about floods back home. He checked the Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette online—nothing. Then he realized the photos came from the 100-year storm that hit eastern Iowa in 2008, when The Texas Governor was President, the one who went missing in action when New Orleans went under.
During the Flintstone’s summer visit home, the quadrennial political rhetoric stunned Fred, not because only from the kooks who run the Baptist equivalent of an Islamic madrassa. Nor from big-shot bankers who took a big tax break a few years back, followed big government backed bonuses to compensate from self-inflicted wounds received in the 2008 financial crisis. The words sounded as if streamed direct from websites, from the mouths of people who got nothing from 2008 except more debt, less pay, or even worse.
Fred hears: “How long can Obama blame things on Bush?” Fred’s short answer, “He can blame Bush for as long as it takes to pay back the $11 trillion debt Bush ran up during his eight years.” The War ($3 trillion take or leave a trillion), and then The Tax Cut, primarily for his rich backers (another $2 trillion). And then, as he left office, The Bailout, another $2 trillion, not counting Bailout commitments he left for the next president to make good.